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The Fear Factor: Modern Homesteading Style

by Victoria Gazeley

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The fear started before we even moved in.

Staying in our old cabin alone had been on my bucket list for years. Along with sleeping in a tent alone (which, I have to admit, I still haven’t done).

The cabin we now live in had been in our family for about a decade before we renovated it and moved in in early 2009. Over the years, my brother had lived there, then some renters, but mostly, it had been empty. And it had always beckoned me, like my own little private retreat centre. I figured if I could stay alone on that remote property, I could tackle anything.  But the thought of it scared the you-know-what out of me.

Fear Makes You Do Goofy Things…
and Keeps You From Doing the Things You Should

Sounds silly, I know. But for a country-girl-turned-city-slicker-turned-back-to-country-girl, just the thought of sleeping in a tiny cabin alone, far away from the nearest breathing human… It freaked me out just to think about it.  The isolation, the quiet, the fear of what I’d do if ‘something happened’ and there were no neighbours around to hear my pathetic screams.  Then there was this chestnut:  the old guy who built the cabin in the 1930s died in it, alone, not to be found until weeks later when the Mounties came to call.

Fear was part of the reason why it took so long for us to move.  It actually paralyzed me for awhile, causing me to look for property in more populated areas, even though I knew in my heart I wanted to be on acreage with room for gardens and some small livestock.  But I finally dove in, threw caution to the wind (sort of) and moved us to our little pocket of rural bliss.

When we moved in, I literally didn’t sleep for about a week.  Jumping at every noise outside in the dark.  Checking the phone to make sure it was working in case I had to make an emergency call in the middle of the night.  Making sure the drapes were drawn so no one could peer in the windows from the blackness.  Having the car keys ready to hit the alarm, just in case (of course, no one would have heard it, but it might have scared off a lunatic or two… or so I hoped).   Seems pretty crazy in hindsight, but a city dweller plunked into the country will do some goofy things for the sense that her family is protected.

All those fears are irrational, of course, birthed by watching too many cheesy horror movies as a teenager and newscasts as an adult, and spending too many years living cheek to jowl with strangers in the city. But it doesn’t make it any less scary. My fears about us living down here, far removed from the nearest neighbour, actually stayed with me until this past summer!  It took a year and a half for me to get really comfortable with being here on our own.  With no cell coverage.  And no close neighbours.  It really took some getting used to.

I’m still a little nervous on the odd occasion I have to sleep here alone.  But at least now I can sleep…

Are Your Fears Holding YOU Back?

Do you have fears about living in the country that are holding you back, keeping your homesteading dream from coming true?  There are definitely some common country living fears I hear from urbanites.  Funnily enough, they are some of the same ones I’ve had to face head on:

  1. Some crazy lunatic might break into my house when we’re at home -  Sadly, this happens sometimes.  But the chances are pretty minuscule.  This innate fear is fueled by movies and media reports, but if you use the same security precautions you use in the city (lock your doors and windows, etc.) and stay away from associations that could get you into trouble, your chances of running into such a horror are really, really small.  Much smaller than in the city.
  2. Some crazy wild animal might break into my house – This is more likely, depending on where you live.  We had a number of cougars (mountain lions/panthers) around here last year, and a great, big, fat male black bear.  Just last week, a mother bear destroyed the inside of a car in a subdivision a few miles away – they’d likely do the same thing if they got into your house.  Again, keep your doors closed (especially if you’re cooking meat), or at minimum get good screen doors, don’t leave any food outside (including pet food) that would lure these animals into your yard.  Pick fruit from your orchards and berry bushes (don’t leave them sitting out ripe).  But mostly, stay alert!
  3. A wild animal might attack me when I have to go outside for firewood at night because I forgot to get it during the daylight – If animals are going to come lurking around your house, it will usually be at night.  If you find yourself having to go out onto your property at night, and live in an area with large predators, there are a few things you can do to reduce the chance of running into a big critter.  First, carry a big light so you can see any glowing eyes looking back at you.  Second, make some noise – clap, talk loudly, let them know you’re coming, that you’re human and that you’re not prey.  And third, make sure you don’t smell like food!  Seriously, though, the best way to get over this fear is to do some research, find out what kind of animals live in your area, and how to avoid them.  That will go a long way in helping you keep this fear in check.
  4. A weirdo might peer into my windows at night because it’s so darned black outside I’d never know if they were there anyway – OK, there are some creepy people out there, but it’s not likely that they’ll be seeking out your living room window under cover of darkness.  You can alleviate this fear by checking with the local police department to find out the crime statistics in your area – preferably before you move!  Most rural areas are pretty safe as far as crimes go.  Now falling in a well or chopping your leg with an axe – that’s more what you should be worried about.
  5. Livestock – cows, goats, chickens… you name it - This is a fear I still have, even though we now have chickens.  Maybe the thought of being responsible for other living things gives me the willies, or I don’t want to be ‘tied down’, but it’s taking me awhile to get past this one.  Let’s face it – you can’t take the chickens on a spur of the moment vacation (or any vacation, actually).  Animals are a lot of work – they all require daily care and maintenance:  feeding, protection, fixing shelters, medical care, collecting and processing eggs/milk/meat, etc.  That said, they are a beautiful addition to your ‘trying-to-be-as-self-sufficient-as-possible’ lifestyle.  Right now we’re pondering getting a dog to protect the chickens.  I’ll let you know how it goes…
  6. Creepy crawlies might crawl over me while I’m sleeping – I’m not too bothered by these, but I know lots of people are.  So you’ll need to either be able to trap them yourself, or hire or find someone who will.  There are all sorts of contraptions and contractors out there to catch bugs, mice, rats, etc.  Many use toxic pesticides – please avoid those.  Many more use all sorts of luring mechanisms in order to trap or kill bugs.  But keep this in mind – the only way to really get over this fear is to accept the fact that you can’t avoid them in the country.  Period.  End of story.  How?  There are all sorts of great methods.  Meridian tapping is one of the best.  Looks kooky, works great.  You can find out more about it at thetappingsolution.com (there’s a free download that shows you ‘how to tap’).  We’ve used it for all sorts of things for years now, with much success.  Maybe I should use it to get over my fear of owning animals.
  7. What if I injure myself somehow and can’t get to help – Of all these fears, this is probably the most realistic.  I’ve heard stories of farmers that were run over by farm equipment, people dying after ladder falls, someone having a medical emergency and not being able to call for help.  They were all alone at the time.  But there are ways to alleviate this risk:  try not to work on even mildly dangerous tasks when you’re alone; make sure you’ve got phone contact if you are working alone; learn the hazards in your area and do everything you can to avoid them.  There are lots of resources online related to safety around equipment.  Mother Earth News has some great homesteading safety tips and guidelines.  Find them and use them.
  8. I might turn into a hermit – With all the work that needs to be done around a rural property, and especially if you’re also working from home, it would be really easy to never see another adult.  At least not for days at a time.  For those of us who are inclined to enjoy quiet time alone, the risk is even higher.  But I’ll tell you something – self-sufficiency does NOT require isolation.  What I’ve found out since moving here, much to my chagrin at the time, is that I actually need people.  I needed someone to help me figure out how to unfreeze the water pipes.  I needed someone to show me the correct way to build a hot fire in the woodstove.  I needed someone to keep me from going crazy when the squirrel would not stop trying to get into the house.  This was huge for me, independent spirit that I am.  So, yes, you could turn into a hermit like the old guy who built our gorgeous little cabin, but modern homesteading sort of dictates that you have a community.  And honestly, it’s really much more fun that way.

So as you can see, most of our fears about living in a remote area are either unfounded, or they can be eliminated (or at least reduced) with a few simple fixes and mindset adjustments. I no longer worry about some weirdo peering in the windows at night (who would bother?). Nor do I tremble at the thought of a bear or cougar lurking in the darkness ready to pounce.  I just don’t walk around with food at night.  I’d advise you do the same…

Over time, and with every success, we get more confident. And we worry less. It’s nice, actually. Now I can enjoy the quiet.

Maybe I’ll go pitch a tent in the front yard. And keep my ears open for bears.

What are your biggest fears about country living?  Let us know in the comments below!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas Vorpe October 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Hey Victoria, I just bought a 37 acre place in the country…close to a little town but still isolated to me. The fears you mentioned are real and I have all of them. Amazing…I thought I was the only irrational 52 year old out there….I guess its time for me to face the fears head on….Watch out spiders and monsters,…here I come.

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Pam December 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Solar powered, motion activated security lights. They work great for the house and livestock pens. Although not a foolproof method at predation prevention, they go a long way for peace of mind. And not too expensive.
Pam

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Victoria Gazeley December 14, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Great point. We’ve got one on our coop, but should probably put another on the other side…

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